Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Friday, March 24, 2023

Christian unity calls for more than words

Thursday January 26, 2023

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity started Wednesday January 25. I’m not sold on it. But I’m not sure I should say so. I mean, Christian unity is a good thing, isn’t it? Shouldn’t Christians be able to present a united front to all the other world religions?
Yeah, I guess so.
Nevertheless, on the principle that I might as well be hung for being a heretic as for being a progressive, maybe unity is not such a good thing.
In the first place, it’s superficial.
I have very little in common, for example, with the gun-toting far-right evangelical fringe in the U.S. that’s now being called “Christian nationalism.” Just as they have little in common with the Christian minority in India being squeezed out by the strongly pro-Hindu policies of Narendra Modi. And as they in turn have little in common with the robed guardians of priceless art treasures in the Vatican.

Words, words, words
In second place, the Week of Prayer seems to be mostly “head stuff” -- what Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady called “Words, words, words!”
Over 60 or so years of working in and with Canadian churches, I’ve attended many ecumenical services. Almost without exception, they consist of people reading scripts written by far-away gnomes, proffering pious platitudes carefully crafted not to offend anyone.
To quote Eliza Doolittle again: “Don’t talk of love, show me!”
The true unity of the Christian Church – if it exists -- lies in its actions. Providing space for a community fridge. Sending medical supplies to Ukraine. Lobbying for mental health services. Rescuing abandoned children.
Not in scripted worship services.

And besides, it isn’t a WEEK of Prayer.
As I have written before, I’m skeptical about the efficacy of prayers. I don’t have much faith in what a former boss called “Gimme Prayers”: Please God, gimme a red wagon. Cure my cancer. Bring my wife back.
Usually accompanied by unrealistic promises: Answer my prayer and I’ll do my homework every night. Quit smoking. Tithe…
Prayer, to my mind, needs to be constant, on-going. It may not involve words at all --more like a way of living.
In doing some research on the Week of Prayer, I ran across a group in England that has been praying non-stop, night and day, since 1999. They started hoping to pray for a month; they kept going.
The founder of 24/7 Prayer International, Pete Grieg, recalls their discovery that “we were embarrassingly bad at prayer,,, We were distracted and confused. Those first few hours were tedious and horrible. We quickly ran out of things to say. How on earth were we going to do this for a whole day, let alone an entire month?
“Then something shifted. I can’t really explain it, but as we began to pray alone or in pairs…instinctively we began to pray and worship non-verbally with creativity and silence. And gradually prayer – this thing we found so hard – became enjoyable and exciting.”
Forget about doing non-stop prayer like Grieg and his colleagues. If two billion Christians around the world could all pray together for just one solid hour – regardless of the words and format – that would indeed demonstrate Christian unity.
It might even change the world.
Copyright © 2023 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca


I get the impression that most of you are not particularly sympathetic to Prince Harry.

Mirza Yawar Baig expressed his view strongly: “ I must say that sniveling little millionaire complainers who didn't do a stroke of work in their lives and lived off colonial loot and tax payers money, moaning that their elder brother got one sausage more leave me totally unmoved. That he also complains about the racist white supremacist attitude in Buckingham Palace while boasting about the number of brown Afghans he shot....I mean, is this guy real? Spencer or Windsor or No Surname...he's a loser.
“The fact that he is being paid millions to spew forth all this anguish makes it painful only for those who want to read about it.”

Cliff Boldt; was slightly more sympathetic: “Like so much other gossip and speculation about the royal family, I’ll give SPARE a pass. The North American media would do well to ignore the well-travelled paths of the British tabloids who seem to thrive on character attacks, regardless of any hard evidence.
“Harry and his family have a rough row to hoe in life. I wish them well.”

William Rogers: “Thought your blog was a site that wouldn't involve Harry and Meghan. My mistake.”

Tom Watson: “What you say about Harry's not having a last name is very interesting. I had not known that. Although I likely didn't know it because I long ago lost all interest in the entire family.
“I have never understood how one family could claim to be ‘royal’ in perpetuity, and their checkered track record has been anything but royal. If you sense that Harry's book won't be on my reading list anytime soon, you'd be right. Spare me.”

David Gilchrist: “I haven’t read Harry’s book either -- and doubt that I will share the airing of their dirty laundry.
“However I have another perspective on the relationship between birth sequence and Responsibility. I don’t question the examples you quote. But life has as many ‘Both/Ands’ as it has ‘Either/Ors.’ There are also cases where the first born is the ONLY one for a while, and resents the intrusion of another attention-getter -- especially if the second has special needs or characteristics, which could be genetic and not environmental, but still require extra parental time. I do know that the first one sometimes has an attitude of ‘Entitlement’: more a sense of authority over, rather than responsibility for, the younger sibling. That can lead to bullying.
“I know at least one family where the second took over much or the duties of the absent father, rather than the older one taking them on.”

Bob Rollwagen commented on the British monarchy generally: “Nothing new currently with the British Monarchy. It has stood the test of time and, as social media expands, adapted its role to maintain a position of significance for the vast majority.”
Bob added thoughts about birth order: “It is amazing how the second child syndrome fits for all families of varying economic and social tiers. Harry’s big challenge is how to keep Meagan happy given she quit her Hollywood career to become wife of the brother of a King who is no longer significant.”

John Shaffer: “Birth order didn't work in my family, as my oldest brother had learning disabilities. My father, not having any understanding of the concept, just thought my brother was a goof-off and he applied serious discipline and eventually allowed him to enter military service at an early age. Today, Father would have faced prison time for his actions.”

Lesley Clare: “I ‘discovered’ the theory of birth order my first year at university. It wasn't news. We were planned. My sister came first. 3 years later I arrived. Since I was also a girl, 3 years later another pregnancy. Whoops -- twin boys. The autumn they were born, my sister was in hospital for months with brain cancer. None of that stuff about how the jam in the middle of the sandwich is the special stuff helps. Nature or nurture isn't really the question. It’s nature, informed by nurture, for all of us.”

Heather Sandilands: “Your comment about Bob Newhart's potential monologue mad me laugh out loud!!”


Psalm paraphrase

I have two paraphrases for Psalm 15; I liked this one better.

1 Your doors are always open, God;
You have no locks or fences.
2 Anyone can walk in --

Anyone who does no harm to others,
Who holds no grudges,
Who rejects pretence and sham.
3 Your guests have no double standards;

They will not doublecross a friend for their own gain,
nor sow dissension among their colleagues.
4 Yet they do not simply tolerate whatever comes;
They steer clear of evil causes.
They keep their word -- even at personal sacrifice.
5 They do not see money only as a means of making more;
They will not seek profit from the plight of the poor and helpless.
They are not fickle or changeable.
They will not do anything to cut themselves off from your company.

Apparently the printed book of my paraphrases of most of the psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary is now out of print. But you can still order an e-book version of Everyday Psalms from Wood Lake Publishing, info@woodlake.com, or 1-800-663-2775



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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. Some spam filters have blocked my posts because they’re suspicious of some of the web links.
Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca He’s also relatively inexpensive!
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has lots of beautiful photos. Especially of birds.
Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)

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Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Soft Edges


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